Saturday, December 29, 2007

What’s Too Painful To Remember We Simply Choose to Completely Forget Until Those Memories Come Back to Haunt Us In New And Special Ways


I don’t have many childhood memories. Or, perhaps I should say, I don’t have many good childhood memories, though I have an instant recall of the bad. What memories I do have are more like little hallucinations with questionable origins, tiny snippets and pieces of life that seem so foreign that I am not even sure they belong to me. It’s like I am watching a movie of someone else’s life and I can't change the channel.

I cannot for the life of me remember the name of my third grade teacher. Or fourth grade. Or fifth grade. I cannot remember what color my bedroom was. I can’t remember what room I slept in when I lived with my grandparents for six months. Or remember what we used to eat for dinner. I do remember what whiskey sours smell like and how much I liked to let my ice cream melt until it was a soup I drank without a spoon and my cranberry-colored corduroy culottes. But these little scraps and fragments I can’t seem to weave together into an honest-to-goodness childhood.

My first true, real memories probably start around sixth grade, and even those are vague. There are reasons for all this, for certain, but I don’t know if I will ever really get into them here. I don’t even dissect it with my closest friends. It’s wearying to live in the past, and painful to sift through it all, and besides, my own actions, when analyzed, belie my truth more than my words probably ever can.

All this stuff rears its little head because now I worry about creating a happy, safe, memory-rich childhood for my children. One with traditions and rituals and matching Christmas pajamas for all of us. Believe me when I say that these seemingly silly little things like matching pajamas are so important to me.

I look at the girls sometimes and wonder how I can possibly always protect them and always make them happy. The idea of it, the very concept of it, is overwhelming. How can I do it if it wasn’t done for me? Thank god there’s Nicole to shine the light on the path we need to follow because my missteps will be many I’m sure.

I am not the most forgiving person, this is true, but there comes a point in your life when you realize, in that make-your-therapist-proud sort of way, that carrying around all that anger and pain only hurts you in the long (and short) run. I know this, just like I know I shouldn’t drink two bottles of wine in one night and I shouldn’t lather myself in baby oil and lay out in the sun and nothing good comes from wearing vinyl pants. But words of caution don't always translate into proper actions.

Again and again I try to forgive and forget, but just the other day, in a fit of anger (really, hurt and rejection/dejection) I almost made a phone call to someone to deliver a very passive aggressive speech. While this particular person may have deserved it (toxic, toxic, toxic), I had to admit I wasn’t angry, I was hurt, or perhaps, more to the point, betrayed in the most minor sense of the word. Yet my words to said person wouldn’t reveal this. How confusing for the other person and myself.

For me, like many people, when I am hurt or sad, I usually either withdraw (I surrender, I can’t fight this anymore) or I lash out. Just letting things be, accepting what I can’t change, going gently into that good night (yes, I know this is not what Dylan Thomas meant in his poem but I am purposely misinterpreting him here), that is hard for me and is not my most natural path.

But I am getting better. I am learning to acknowledge and accept my own flaws and my own weaknesses, which we all know if the first step to changing them. I’ll never be perfect, since no one is, and I will always have issues to work on. These days, though, I find I don’t have the time to carry two babies along with a suitcase of grudges so I am trying to drop the grudges and keep the girls.

Maddie still sleeps her twelve-hour night but for the past week or so she has usually one episode a night when she cries. Instead of letting her cry it out, I have been getting up, changing her diaper and cuddling with her until she goes back to sleep. When I hold her I can feel her muscles relax and feel her just melt in my arms. She caresses my face with her little hand and drifts back to sleep, comfortable and secure. I have no words really to describe how that feels. I never thought I would have her and Avery and Nicole and all that I have, and sometimes in the middle of the night when I am holding her on the couch, when it is quiet and calm, that is when I remember all that. That’s when there are no grudges and no judgments and no hurt or pain and when I can let things just be.

Pictured above, Madeline in her cozy mode with Nicole. Also pictured is Madeline in her new high chair with her tummy showing! Notice the wall color behind her. Here is a memory I DO recall: Nicole and I receiving the huge five-inch-thick paint color thingy from our contractor. And Nicole was in charge of picking a color. And out of the millions of colors, which included soft oranges and sunny yellows and beautiful blues and toasty taupes, she chose Elephant Tusk, which I think of institutional white or The Most Boring Color In the World. Perhaps I can start a campaign to get her to reconsider.

Oh, and in the category of new colors, why oh why can’t there be plain white diapers? Why do all disposables have a little Grover or a little Big Bird peeking out? Am I the only person who would pay a premium for plain white diapers? Or, if there has to be some sort of character on them, can we at least have diapers with themes, like maybe a Politicians of the 19th Century theme or Power Players from the Algonquin Round Table theme? I’d rather look at Dorothy Parker than see another picture of mini Elmo.

7 comments:

psapph0 said...

I hear ya on the memories- though mine are always crystal clear and stretch back to at least the age of 4, if not earlier. I remember things- many, many things- that I wish I could forget and I can't say I'm sure whether I would rather be able to remember or be able to forget. They assult me on a daily basis with seemingly little provocation. We should chat.

As for diapers, 7th generation diapers (speaking of paying a premium!) are PLAIN WHITE! http://www.seventhgen.com/our_products/baby/chlorine_free_diapers.html

Carey said...

LOL about the diapers!! I am so with you on that!! I cannot stand Elmo, why in the world do I want him on a diaper that I have to look at several times a day??

UtRus said...

again, you are such a great writer. how can you write about something so serious as a crap-ass childhood, then go and crack me up with the vinyl pants comment. :)

i think about these things all the time - how to ensure a safe and happy childhood. and then i try and remind myself that there's really only so much I can do. and part of that is just living a good life and setting an example. I am trying to be a more patient person and enjoy the moments as they arise...

i agree about the muppet babies. i'm tired of them! personally, i would like to see silent film stars, female athletes and hikus on our diapers.

SJayneI said...

I'm sooooo with you on the diapers. Why do they do this; the babies don't really see them anyway!!!!

EGGS IN THE APPLE said...

hmmmmm I have the opposite memory thing going on- I like to pretend everything was happy happy (except for an occasional tragedy). Not until a some therapy, lines in the sand and forced reflection am I realizing that my childhood was partly insane.

Not that you are asking- but kudos to you for trying not to repeat patterns. It's fucking hard.

I wonder where the heck you can get family sized pjs.

K J and the kids said...

I imagine that it is a better thing to forget than to live with knowing it.
The fact that you are so aware puts you one step ahead. Your girls are SO very lucky.

Oh and thanks for the advice on the vinyl pants. I put that one down. :)

Kerry Lynn said...

I realize pampers must make a ton of money from sesame street but christ I would love white diapers.

my local grocery store has very good store brand diapers that are $15 for almost 100 diapers and they just have a strip of ducks across the front. i believe the bj's brand is the same and they work just as well as pampers and you don't need to look at elmo's mug every day.